What does a zombie eating brains sound like?

I have written before about the fascinating sound effects produced by Foley artists for films. They use mostly everyday items to create sounds for films and then have to carefully sync those sounds with the final film. They do that by matching the image to the sound film clip while watching the film. In this clip, Matt Davies eats tomatoes and peppers and other assorted food items, plus does other things to them to create the gross-out sounds of horror films, such as zombies eating brains and flesh and so on.

What interested me is that even though we don’t know what these sounds would be like, since zombies don’t actually exist, people have preconceptions of what they should hear.


  1. says

    I once got a cook’s tour of the Foley studio at Skywalker Ranch recording studio in California. That was quite the toy store — a little bit of everything, including an entire car (quite a nifty classic English sports car), half a dozen different kinds of floors (from parquet to steel decking to dirt), and many dozens of different kinds of shoes.

    I recorded a baroque opera in which there was a scene where the gates of Hell opened and the spirits inside sang a little chorus. We tried all kinds of things to create the sound and eventually put a flagstone from the church garden on a large plywood box (it was the transport case for the portable pipe organ) and dragged another rock across it. Then I took it home and pitched it down an octave with digital signal processing, and added a bunch of reverberation. That sounded pretty scary.

  2. consciousness razor says

    Oh yes, it sounds like so many unusual things, depending on the unusual circumstances. With zombies, I guess you could say the circumstances are usually unusual. If watching The Walking Dead all these years has taught me anything, it’s that. But those zombies (okay, not “zombies”) don’t just go for the brains, so perhaps that should mean an even larger variety of sounds.

    What interested me is that even though we don’t know what these sounds would be like, since zombies don’t actually exist, people have preconceptions of what they should hear.

    Indeed we do. We don’t usually have very clear/accurate ideas about what real things sound like, even fairly mundane events like a fist fight or a person walking down a hallway or what have you. I bet that more often than not, Foley artists need to give you (or the director, etc.) only what you expect to hear, or I suppose what they want you to hear if it’s not exactly meant to expected…. But either way, far from the real thing.

    I guess people’s imaginations can run pretty wild with stuff like this, because in everyday life, there’s not much use in representing/remembering such things accurately. And if it creates the right mood, tells the right story, helps you feel the right things about the characters, or whatever the case may be, then it’s doing its job in the movie and everybody’s happy.

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    In the book And Now… Here’s Max (the autobiography of Canadian broadcaster and comedian Max Ferguson) he described a time when he was doing a radio drama version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and discovered that the CBC radio archives didn’t have a guillotine sound effect. On the day of the show, he had an inspiration: when the sound effect was supposed to happen, he stood up, flipped on the internal microphone in the sound booth, grabbed the squeaky-wheeled office chair he had been sitting on, and gave it a push across the booth. Squea-sque-squeak-Thunk!

    He said he later got a call from one of the people involved in professional theatre productions to say it was the best guillotine sound effect that he’d heard.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Ah, Max Ferguson. OT he had the story of using the vacuum tubes of the radio to heat up his lunch when he was working for CBC in Halifax. Every time he entered the radio room he cut the broadcast power. He later learned that CBC engineers had been going crazy for at least a year trying to find the problem of the intermittent power outages.

    I don’t remember the guillotine story but it is the true Max.

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